Gymnastics set for own rivalry showdown with UA

(1.22) Gymnastics
Welcome home: The ASU gymnastics team will host its first home meet of the 2010 season when it takes on rival UA at Wells Fargo Arena on Sunday. The Sun Devils are hoping to build off a win at California last weekend. (PHOTO COURTESY OF JASON WISE)
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Friday, January 22, 2010
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UA is sending two teams this weekend up the I-10 to renew the state’s most heated rivalry.

Less than 24 hours after Saturday’s men’s basketball showdown at Wells Fargo Arena, the ASU gymnastics team will host No. 24 UA on the very same floor.

“Kill the cats,” ASU assistant coach Kari Ward said. “We’re ready to show everyone our team.”

This will be the Sun Devils’ (1-3) home opener and second Pac-10 meet of the young season.

“It’s a pride thing,” ASU junior Mary Atkinson said. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve lost to UA by very slim margins every time. This year, we are a very talented and fit team. We’ve put in a lot of hours, and we should do well this weekend.”

This matchup might just mean the most to the squad’s only senior.

“It means a little extra ‘cause they are our big rival,” ASU senior Kaitlynn Bormann said. “We are just going to go into it ready to win.”

As for what the team needs to accomplish to seal a victory, ASU coach John Spini wants to see improvement from last weekend’s season opener.

“We need to take the energy we got from a win at [California] and build off the positive things we got done there,” Spini said. “It’s a rivalry, and what we want to do is teach the kids to keep competing even under pressure.”

Atkinson is looking for the same growth.

“We had a lot of really good things happen last weekend with all the personal-bests,” she said. “But we had errors, too. We need to improve on that and not be forced to count our falls.”

Spini will also be mixing up his lineup in hopes of putting a charge into his team.

“We need to figure out the best way to start putting kids in so that the order builds in relationship to the level of [difficulty of the] routine,” Spini said.

Sunday’s competition additionally represents an early chance for ASU to earn a signature win versus a top-level opponent.

“UA is a good test for us,” Spini said. “And, right now, we need to be tested every meet, because once you get to Regionals, it’s a new life for everyone.”

The Sun Devils hope to see between 1,500 to 2,000 fans in attendance for Sunday’s contest.

“Its really important for people to come out and support us because of the subjective judging,” Spini said. “It’s ASU versus UA.”

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